6 Mind-Blowing Facts About Swallowing
Today is a pretty special day in the Speech Pathology calendar – it’s Swallowing Awareness Day! As a team of passionate clinicians, we’ve come across plenty of unique and wonderful facts about the human body over the years. Hopefully you find these six mind-blowing facts about swallowing as interesting as we do.
And with that, let’s celebrate Swallowing Awareness Day with some surprising facts!
Mind-Blowing Facts About Swallowing
Swallowing uses 26 muscles.
Yep, that’s right, your body is getting a serious workout every time you swallow with no less than 26 muscles being flexed each time! If you want to get technical about it, some of the muscles involved in this process include the omohyoid, sternohyoid, and sternothyroid muscles (ansa cervicalis), and of course, the thyrohyoid muscle.
Humans swallow 900 times a day!
When we said swallowing was a workout, we really meant it. Your swallowing muscles are so incredible, they even activate while you sleep! On average, people swallow 3 times per hour during sleep, once per minute when awake, and much more during mealtimes.
Because of how frequently the swallowing reflex occurs (even while asleep!) you can probably imagine why having a safe swallow is so important. Speech Pathologists often work with people with swallowing difficulties, known clinically as Dysphagia.
When swallowing isn’t safe, you might feel things ‘going down the wrong way’. This is called aspiration, and it’s a dangerous situation because it can lead to pneumonia, which can be especially harmful for older people.
More than 1 million Australians have swallowing difficulties.
There are a lot of people across Australia who have difficulty with swallowing, and that number continues to rise as more people are diagnosed with Dysphagia.
Dysphagia can be caused by a lot of different things, including stroke that weakens the swallow muscles, or degenerative neurological conditions like Parkinson’s.
We produce 1.5L of saliva per day.
Have you ever seen a dog that’s so happy it’s drooling all over the place? Well, you might feel like you can relate a little more now that you know humans produce 1.5 litres of saliva a day. Yep, that’s a lot isn’t it?
For fun (and for the visual learners) grab a measuring tool and pour 1.5L of water into a jug. Show your kids – they might think it’s really cool or be totally grossed out. Either way, we still think the human body is really cool, saliva and all.
One in 17 people will develop Dysphagia at some point in their lifetime.
Dysphagia is a lot more common than you might think. Because there are so many ways that it can occur, Dysphagia is a common condition that impacts people across the lifespan.
In fact (I guess this makes this one a double fact) babies and children can have trouble with swallowing, leading to challenges with breastfeeding and feeding in general. That’s why there are Speech Pathologists working in hospitals around the country, working with new mothers and young children in paediatric wards.
The entire swallowing process only takes 17-23 seconds
With all the effort we go to as Speech Pathologists (and our clients with swallowing difficulties!) it might be surprising to know that the process of swallowing only takes around 17-23 seconds to complete. That’s one fast function if we do say so ourselves!
This is why videofluroscopy, which is a video x-ray taken while you swallow, is helpful in diagnosing and monitoring improvements in swallowing over time. With the help of X-ray technology and some barium, we’re able to watch and record people as they swallow to see what is really going on inside. It is truly fascinating to watch!
So, did you learn something new today? We hope you found these facts about swallowing as interesting as we did. We’re an enthusiastic bunch, that’s for sure, but we also know there’s a lot about the human body that’s pretty incredible when you have a chance to sit and reflect on it.